Friday, June 17, 2011

2012 Faith-Based Itineraries Unveiled

Globus, one of the first tour operators to feature faith-based tours, unveiled its 2012 lineup with eight itineraries throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Two new offerings include "The European Reformation" and "Grand Catholic Italy." The Reformation itinerary includes 11 days in Germany with visits to Wittenberg, where Luther posted his 95 theses; Wartburg Castle, where he translated the Bible into German; and the Gutenberg Museum, where original copies of the Bible are on display. The trip also includes stops in Berlin and Munich as well as a day cruise on the Rhine River.

Globus continues the popular "Footsteps of the Apostle Paul" tour, which includes stops in Greece and Turkey, as well as the 10-day "Journey Through the Holy Land," where travelers literally walk where Jesus walked.

As a special incentive, Globus and Harmony Travel are offering 10% off 2012 bookings that are paid in full by Sept. 27.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Indiana Dunes State Park

After a long winter of being cooped up at home, Memorial Day weekend presented an excellent opportunity for a quick getaway.

Indiana Dunes State Park is just over three hours north of Indianapolis on the south shore of Lake Michigan.

I hadn't been to the Dunes since high school, so I had only vague memories of climbing around on mountains of sand. All other memories had faded away.

I was quite surprised then when we pulled up to the entrance gate in the middle of a forest. Turns out the Dunes aren't just sand and beach. There are actually more than 16 miles of trails that go through landscape that includes lots of trees, ferns and a marsh.

Since we had left around 9 in the morning and arrived just after noon, our first stop was the picnic area to enjoy our sandwiches.

We then drove over to the Nature Center, which gave us a chance to see exhibits about the types of wildlife in the area, a birdwatching area (I was fascinated by the red-bellied woodpeckers), and even the ruins of a shipwreck that had been retrieved.

One of the favorite displays for me and my two young boys was a place to measure your "wing span." Placing your palm against the glass, you stretched your arms as far as they could go. The display let you know how your wingspan compared to some of the birds in the area - from hawks to herons to the bald eagle.

The Nature Center makes for a good base camp during a visit. Trails 7, 8, 9 and 10 all can be accessed. We started with Trail 7, a 1.1-mile, moderate trail that provides the most direct route to the beach.

It got off to a sandy start but then transformed into firmer ground. The trail ends on a sandy dune hill about 40-50 feet above Lake Michigan. We wandered down to the wide beach to play by the water.

It's a good thing kids aren't fazed much by extreme temperatures. The water temp in late May was only 47 degrees. By Labor Day, the lake warms up into the 70s. The boys splashed around for a while and found some great rocks for skipping.

On our way back to the Nature Center, we ventured off on to parts of Trails 8 and 4 that led us to the highest point in the park - Mt. Tom with an elevation of 192 feet above the lake.

Trail 4 led us to the campground, which was full of holiday revelers. It is adjacent to the Nature Center.

After a short snack, we decided we had enough energy for one more hike. We started off on Trail 10. The entire trail makes a 5.5-mile loop. Our goal was simply to go the first mile to the bird observation tower that looks over the marsh.

We made it to the tower, but unfortunately heavy rains in the days and weeks prior to our visit left the stairwell unaccessible.

By the time we made it back to the Nature Center one final time, we had been at the park for 4 hours. A steady rain had started to fall and we sensed it was time to leave.

There's more to explore during our next visit.